ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pinellas County Schools is making a major push in 2020 to recruit more volunteers to do something seemingly small — get to know and mentor students one-on-one over lunch.

  • Adults come in once a week to hang out with students for 30 mins over lunch
  • District needs at least 700 more volunteers by end of school year
  • Want to volunteer? Visit

At lunch time on Wednesdays, Alex and Nicole Pesci join Jacob and Jeremiah Pasco at Mount Vernon Elementary each week. Jeremiah and Jacob are in fourth grade, while Alex and Nicole are the boys' mentors.

"Where is your fruit?" laughs Nicole, pointing at Jacob's lunch tray. 

"Ummm," Jacob says with a smirk. 

During the kids' lunch break, the adults and students talk about school and life. It's part of Pinellas County School District's Lunch Pals program, in which adults come in for lunch for 30 minutes once a week to eat and hangout with their paired-up student.

“It’s a fun break, and you always leave feeling better than when you walked in the door," said Nicole. 

"It’s funny because it keeps you grounded, it keeps you young," Alex told us. "It is hilarious to hear some of the things that they say."

The boys look forward to it too. 

"Because they are super fun," said Jeremiah.

"These are our first mentors that I had, that I actually had fun with and hanging with them,” said Jacob.  

Unfortunately, many other students in Pinellas are waiting to enjoy those kinds of connections. Currently, there's a long waiting list for mentors.

While Pinellas has 1,972 mentors, the district also has 2,841 students in need of a mentor, hence this year's recruiting drive.

"As a county, we are looking for at least 700 more by the end of the school year," said Taylor Ward, the Family Community Liaison at Mount Vernon Elementary. “I have seen this change not only children’s lives, but adult's lives, and families lives.” 

To become a voluneer, click here.